Part 1: Clean White Room
Ah… finally… summer vacation… long days at the beach, sparkling sand between my toes, fresh sea salts wafting through the air… the epitome of perfection…heavenly paradise… I wish I could stay here forever…
“Savannah? Savannah! Answer the question please!” I hear Ms. Clausing’s voice echo into my daydream. I snap my head up.
The class begins to giggle and suddenly, I want to shrink into my seat and disappear forever. I bite my lip.
“Quiet down, everyone…” Ms. Clausing says. “Quiet down…”
I sit silently in my chair, a flush I know everyone can see tinting my ears and cheeks.
Everyone shuts up that instant, but I can still hear faint snickers coming from the back of the classroom. It’s Veronica and her friends, I bet. I put my head in my hands to let my hair cover my face. I try to force myself back into my daydream as Ms. Clausing quiets down the students in the back. I’ve almost transported back to the beach when I hear Ms. Clausing’s shrill yell.
“Savannah! Don’t tell me you’re distracted again! This is the last class before the break! Answer. The. Question!”
The class erupts into even more hoots of laughter. I feel heat rise in my cheeks and I want to melt into the floor and never emerge again.
Once the bell rings I burst out of the classroom’s doors, heading to my locker to finish off the last day of school. Just as I round the corner leading to my locker’s hallway, an arm reaches out and grabs my hand. I whip around and try to pry my arm out of my captor’s grip but they’re too strong. I glance up and right there, Adam Sweller’s rancid breath is panting down on me. And he is smirking. “Are you okay, Sav-Sav?” he teases, mockingly. “Do you need me to escort you to the nurse? Maybe to cure your idiotness.” He laughs in my face. I wince. I want to say it’s “idiocy” and not “idiotness,” but his strong hold scare me from saying anything. I make a small squeak as he tightens his grasp and my cheeks flush with even more embarrassment. I attempt to twist and pull my arm out of his hands but it’s useless once again.
A sweet but sour voice laughs curtly behind him.
I try to twist my gaze past his giant shoulders, but his figure is too wide. But even without seeing her, I would recognize that voice from anywhere. Veronica Smith. She strides closer to me in her pleated white mini-skirt with a red stripe and a cropped white top, a red bow in her hair. Traditional school cheerleader uniform. Her freckles and light brown hair makes me wonder if we could ever pass for sisters. But as if I would ever want to be sisters with her. If I asked her to respond, she would likely mirror my answer.
Veronica smirks at me to match Adam’s and then turns to loudly kiss him on the cheek. I want to cringe and throw up at the same time. I know how her mind works and I can tell she is planning several insults to break me down again. Veronica knows just how to get on my nerves.
Veronica and I used to be best friends. From first grade to ninth grade, we were inseparable. But she broke off our friendship halfway through tenth grade. In the middle of the hallway, she went off. Angrily. Said I was too ugly. Too stupid. Too fat. That I would drag her down with me. Said that I would destroy her reputation. She knew I was sensitive. She knew. And what bugged me most was the way she said it. Snobby and sneery like she really was better than me because she knew exactly which words hurt me the most. I cried waterfalls that day.
That afternoon, she stood me up at our normal meeting spot and I had no one to walk home with. Past the college men with their sinister gaze and their open garage door, past the old woman who always drank tea on the second floor of her modern villa, and past the cute beach boys who always waved at us from across the street. It was mortifying and I was seriously debating wasting several dollars from my part-time job at the cafe to take the 10-minute train ride home, but Mom would be furious if I did. So I left school 15 minutes late after wasting time waiting for her and arrived home with barely any time left before my guitar lesson. And the worst part was when I left for the next day of school in the morning in our special color-coordinated outfit hoping that everything would be normal, on the other side of the street, I saw Veronica leave her house with Abby Jones and Maddy Hanson in our outfit. Our outfit. I thought that was a Savannah and Veronica thing. Roni and Sav. Sav and Roni. Always the same, never changing. I knew it was a funny little thing I did with Veronica, wearing the same outfit and all, but it had grown to be a special part of me. But when Veronica saw me standing there, stunned in denim shorts and a light green cropped t-shirt, her giggles turning into laughs, I knew our friendship was over. As they walked away at their perfect pace, wearing their perfect outfits, maintaining their perfect lives, I knew they were talking about me.
Two years and a half later didn’t make any difference. She was still the same snobby girl, not the kind and funny friend I knew I could rely on during my childhood.
Adam tightened his hands even more and it drew me back to reality. My arm burned and I knew there was going to be marks. I struggled and struggled, tears springing to the surface of my eyes as she laughed with Abby and Maddy behind Adam’s shoulder. I want it to stop. I just want to go home. Adam whipped me around so I was facing him and from the motion, I stop struggling and he manages to grab both of my arms. I’m in searing pain and just when I think it can’t get worse, I feel a sharp punch in my back. I want to scream. I bite down on my free hand, begging myself to not burst into tears. I urge myself to twist my head around to identify the puncher and of course, it’s Parker Williams, Abby’s boyfriend, all of them part of the same group. I brace myself as I watch him lift his fist again and I snap my head back around. Another sharp punch, to the back of the head this time. My vision is going blurry at the edges and every part of me burns in pain. Then I hear a sharp yell. A punch, a slump and I feel myself hit the linoleum floor. My whole body screams and I curl up into a ball, clutching my head. More yelling. Then scampering legs. My head is throbbing and my body is weak, and I feel blood racing back into my wrists. I feel myself get lifted off the ground and a blurry face looks down at me. I hear murmurs though I can’t distinguish them. Then my vision goes pitch black.
I wake up in a clean, white room, laying on a clean, white, bed. A counter lines the wall to my left along with a chair with my backpack on it and a scale in the other corner. All the medical equipment makes it obvious where I am. I’m in the nurse’s office, I think to myself. But how did I end up here? My head is throbbing and I feel something cold pressing against it. The objects around me start to turn hazy and I lose focus. Everything inside my head feels much heavier as if it just gained an extra fifty pounds. I slump back onto the pillow and stare up at the ceiling. The clean, white, ceiling, plain and blank like an empty painter’s canvas. I try to nod myself off to sleep, but sleep won’t come. Just as I am about to give up and wander around the office to find someone to explain the situation, the nurse comes into the room, holding an ice pack. Instantly she notices me, eyes wide open.
“Oh, good! You’re awake!” she exclaims, hurrying over over. She pats the back of my head with the new ice pack and takes the old one off my head. The nurse places it on the counter. “How are you feeling?” she asks.
“Okay…” I manage to murmur. “My head is throbbing… a-a…little…” I manage to reply. My breaths come out in shortened gasps and the back of my head hurts every time I speak.
“How long… was I out for?”
“Forty-five minutes or so. Not too long.”
“Would you mind e-explaining what… happened?”
“Well, I don’t know much, but from what information I had, you had a minor concussion and a boy brought you here, saying you took a big fall. There are red areas on your wrists, which I find interesting. You also have a bruise on your back and a small welt,” she says, touching the back of my head. “How does it feel?”
I wince as I feel the pressure of her cold fingertips pressing harder. “Okay-ish…”
“Alright, well, school is over and I didn’t think it was necessary to call your parents just yet, but I did email them. Would you like to call them now to update them on how you’re feeling?”
“No, that’s alright…“ I say to her. “But thank you. May I go?”
“I guess so. But be careful on your way home. Get some rest as soon as possible. I think the last bus leaves in about…” She checks her watch. “Fifteen minutes.”
“Oh, I walk home,” I say.
“Are you sure you want to in your current state?” She asks me. A wave of concern washes across her face. “It’ll be harder to walk home with your injuries. I can write a letter to the bus driver to mention that he needs to make an extra stop at your place.”
“No that’s alright,” I say, not wanting the ride. I knew that most of the cheerleaders took the late bus home including Veronica, Abby, and Maddy. I didn’t want to get caught up on the same ride as them.
“Okay then…“ the nurse says. “Just be careful and I’ll need you to take these with you.” She goes over to the cabinets above the counter and sink and takes out two little envelopes with labels. “These are pain-killers and you should take them twice a day until the pain stops being so significant. Ice your welt all the time until it doesn’t swell larger anymore and keep track of the bruise on your back.” She gives me a small smile. A polite one with a touch of pity. “I guess you can go now.”
“Okay…thank you,” I reply and try to match her grin. She helps me off the nurse’s cot and takes the ice pack from my head. The nurse hands me my backpack before she opens the door for me when I walk out. “Rest up,” she says.
I turn around to give her another grin and wave at her. “Thank you, and have a good summer,” I say. And then I leave.